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PCJSS/JSS key persons:
Sudha Sindhu Khisa, President/ Rupayan Dewan, Vice President,/Tatindra Lal Chakma, General Secretary/. Responsibility shouldered on 11 July 2013.

Background: The present central committee was elected on 11 July 2013, on the 2nd day of the 3-day long 10th PCJSS national conference. The earlier committee (convening committee) was formed on 10th April 2010 when Mr. Santu Larma convened the 9th national conference (29-31 March 2010) in sheer violation of the party constitution and excluded a few hundred veteran leaders and members and also "formally" expelled 7 top veteran leaders (Chandra Sekhar Chakma, Sudhasindhu Khisa, Rupayan Dewan, Tatindra Lal Chakma, Eng. Mrinal Kanti Tripura, Advocate Shaktiman Chakma and Binoy Krishna Khisa) and also declared their capital punishment. The present leadership is determined to democratise the JSS under a collective leadership.

"The world suffers a lot not because of the violence of the bad people, But because of the silence of the good people." Napoleon (1769-1821).

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Myanmar’s ethno-sectarian clashes: containing China?


New Age, Dhaka, Editorial

4 Oct 2012

 http://www.newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2012-10-04&nid=25805#.UG0fZjBj8yM

PART 1

Myanmar’s ethno-sectarian clashes: containing China?

by Nile Bowie 

The sectarian violence in Myanmar’s western state of Arakan began in June 2012, and the plight of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group has since created an international uproar. Displays of solidarity with the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people have been most potent throughout the Islamic world, with a broad spectrum of support ranging from moderate political leaders to extremist groups.
While rights advocacy groups robustly condemn Myanmar’s government for its role in the conflict, evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of violence was attributed to rioting civilians from both the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community and the ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. The initial violence broke out on May 28th after reports circulated that a Buddhist Rakhine woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men in the town of Ramri. Buddhist communities throughout the state responded by circulating an incendiary pamphlet containing details of the crime. This only served to enflame the already tense situation in Arakan, precipitating a series of events that would draw the attention and condemnation of much of the world.
On June 3rd, a large group of Rakhine villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board. In response to this contemptible act of brutality, several thousand Rohingya rioted in the town of Maungdaw on June 8th, destroying Rahkine property and killing an unknown number of predominately Buddhist villagers. These events prompted large-scale, sectarian violence that quickly swept through the Arakan State capital of Sittwe and surrounding localities. Mobs from both communities stormed unsuspecting villages, killing residents and destroying homes, businesses, and places of worship. Given the extreme poverty and sparse government security presence in the region, residents armed themselves with machetes, sticks, sharpened bamboo spears and other basic weapons in order to defend themselves. Vast stretches of homes, businesses, and property from both communities were completely destroyed, leaving thousands of residents displaced.
These events elicited an international outcry, with much of the world showing sympathy for the Rohingya communities who have long suffered systematic discrimination under Myanmar’s military junta that continues today under the newly elected civilian government. During the British colonial occupation, the lack of political borders between Arakan and Bengal (presently referred to as Bangladesh) caused the Muslim population to surge prior to Myanmar’s independence. It is precisely this migration that Burmans interpret to be evidence of the community’s illegal status. [1] Since 1982, a citizenship law passed by the former military government has excluded the Rohingya from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Although records of Rohingya settlements in Arakan date back to the late 7th century, successive governments have asserted that the Rohingya are foreigners with no right to live in Myanmar, a view shared by much of the Arakan population and much of the dominant Burman ethnic group throughout the country.
The communal violence in Arakan has created a refugee crisis for neighboring Bangladesh – a nation of extreme poverty and high rates of population growth – which is not well prepared to cope with an influx of refugees. According to the United Nations Human Rights Agency (UNHCR), Bangladesh is currently host to some 29,000 recognized refugees who are housed in camps and receive international aid, as well as several thousand undocumented Rohingya living in makeshift communities. [2] Additionally, rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on the violence in Arakan state titled, “The Government Could Have Stopped This,” which alleges that Myanmar’s security forces initially stood by without intervening during the early stages of the unrest, before joining in with Rakhine mobs to target Rohingya communities. While it must be noted that the credibility of HRW’’s reports have come under scrutiny even from founder Robert Bernstein, who accuses the organization of using poor research methods and politicizing their testimony, the content published by HRW examining the violence in Arakan gives a general indication of what occurred. [3]
HRW’s report acknowledges the difficulty of verifying credible information and is based on 57 interviews with eyewitnesses and affected individuals, all of whom remain anonymous. Contrary to the popular perception of Rohingyas being victimized by unprovoked violence, the report concedes that members of the Muslim community indeed used brutal tactics of violence:
A 31-year-old Arakan mother of five told Human Rights Watch how a large group of Rohingya entered her village outside Sittwe around June 12 and killed her husband. She said the government had provided no security. “They killed him right there in the village,” she said. “His arm was cut off and his head was nearly cut off. He was 35 years old.” A 40-year-old Arakan man in Sittwe said, “The government didn’t help us. We had no food, no shelter, and no security [when we fled], but we protected ourselves using sticks and knives.” [4]
The report further details how local law enforcement, military personnel, and border patrol officers targeted Rohingya groups in the ensuing riots; a quite plausible scenario. This is followed in the report by hysterical accusations of systematic rape against Rohingyas carried out by security forces, a likely exaggerated claim. In the Libyan conflict 2011, HRW played a vital role in publishing accusations that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces took part in campaigns of mass rape. [5] Advocacy groups later questioned these allegations, leading some to accuse NGOs of knowingly publishing false claims. [6] The dominant theme throughout the report of unrest in Myanmar is the absence of security forces and their general inactivity. HRW also reports the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment being disseminated by Myanmar’s Buddhist monks:
Some Rohingya in displacement camps told Human Rights Watch that some Burmese soldiers had shown great compassion and gone to the market on their behalf to purchase rice and other necessities, but that their willingness to do so has since stopped. The soldiers’ refusal to informally help Rohingya buy food correlates with a local campaign by Arakan Buddhist monks—the most revered members of local Arakan society—who have distributed pamphlets advocating for separation of the communities and imploring the Arakan people to exclude Muslims in every way. “They are eating our rice and staying near our houses,” the author of one pamphlet told Human Rights Watch. “So we will separate. We need to protect the Arakan people…. We don’t want any connection to the Muslim people at all.” [7]
Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, whose administration instituted the most substantial economic and social reforms in decades, shocked many by telling the United Nations refugee agency that the Rohingya were not welcome, stating, “We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity. We will send them away if any third country would accept them, this is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue.” [8] Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, whose movement has long received diplomatic and financial support from Britain and the United States, has disenchanted many international sympathizers by remaining willfully silent on the issue. It is essential to understand that the immigration policies of the Burman-dominated national political system remain consistent within both the ruling national government and Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), especially when dealing with the issue of the Rohingya:
“The Rohingya are not our citizens.” - Nyan Win, National League for Democracy Spokesperson
“There is no ethnic group named Rohingya in our country.” - Khin Yi, Immigration Minister [9]

Popular Ethno-Sectarian Nationalism & Democracy Promotion
Decades of international isolation under the rule of a paranoid and superstitious military elite have perpetuated the chauvinistic and xenophobic traits of the Theravada Buddhist culture practiced in Myanmar. In attempts to prevent political fragmentation, official mythology has long encouraged a sense of racial and moral superiority among the majority Burman Buddhists – who comprise 60 percent of the population – to the detriment of the nation’s many diverse ethnic and religious minority groups. Built on the foundations of Myanmar’s contemporary culture of national pride and militarism, the former regime perpetuated propaganda warning against multiculturalism, alleging that the health and purity of a uniquely Burman form of Buddhism were at risk from external contamination. Dr. Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident and research fellow at the London School of Economics, writes:
Burmese society as a whole remains illiberal and potently ethno-nationalist. The dominant Burmese worldview continues to rest on an enervating combination of pre-colonial feudalism, religious mysticism, belief in racial purity and statist militarism. This is a potent and poisonous combination. [10]
Zarni also highlights how the politics of Buddhist nationalism greatly restrict Suu Kyi’s options as she pursues reform, especially when dealing with the issue of Rohingya persecution. Zarni writes, “Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi has absolutely nothing to gain from opening her mouth on this, she is no longer a political dissident trying to stick to her principles. She’s a politician and her eyes are fixed on the prize, which is the 2015 majority Buddhist vote.” [11] Since being elected to parliament, Suu Kyi’s focus has been in the realm encouraging foreign investment; it is unlikely that she will use her platform to encourage racial tolerance. As she writes in her 1985 book Burma and India, for the Burman “racial psyche,” Buddhism “represents the perfected philosophy. It therefore follows that there [is] no need to either to develop it further or to consider other philosophies.” [12] Despite the liberal reforms undertaken by the civilian government, popular ethno-nationalist sentiment is pervasive, especially among communities of Buddhist monks.
In Myanmar, the revered status of monks prompted religious leaders to trigger a failed uprising against the former military junta during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a policy directive funded and supported by the United States and British governments. A report issued in 2006 by Burma Campaign UK entitled “Failing the People of Burma?” offers valuable insight into the “democracy promotion” efforts of Western governments. The report cites a statement issued by the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs on October 30, 2003:
“The restoration of democracy in Burma is a priority U.S. policy objective in Southeast Asia. To achieve this objective, the United States has consistently supported democracy activists and their efforts both inside and outside Burma…Addressing these needs requires flexibility and creativity. Despite the challenges that have arisen, United States Embassies Rangoon and Bangkok as well as Consulate General Chiang Mai are fully engaged in pro-democracy efforts. The United States also supports organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities. U.S.-based broadcasters supply news and information to the Burmese people, who lack a free press. U.S. programs also fund scholarships for Burmese who represent the future of Burma. The United States is committed to working for a democratic Burma and will continue to employ a variety of tools to assist democracy activists.” [13]
To be continued
Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer and frequent contributor to Global Research. He explores issues of terrorism, economics and geopolitics. 
Courtesy: Global Research


Notes:
1.    The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar), Kanda University of International Studies, 2005
2.    A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, UNHCR, December 2011
3.    Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast, The New York Times, October 19, 2009
4.    The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012
5.    Libya: Transitional Government Should Support Victims, Human Rights Watch, September 19, 2011
6.    Human rights organisations cast doubt on mass rape in Libya, June 24, 2011
7.    The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012
8.    Myanmar president says Rohingyas not welcome, Daily News, July 12, 2012
9. Special Report: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring, Reuters, June 15, 2012
10. Popular ‘Buddhist’ racism and the generals’ militarism, Democratic Voice of Burma, September 4, 2012
11. Suu Kyi’s silence on Rohingya draws rare criticism, Associated Press, August 16, 2012
12. Aung San Suu Kyi’s Buddhism Problem, Foreign Policy, September 12, 2012
13. Failing the People of Burma? Burma Campaign UK, 2006

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